The Uncomfortable Symptoms I Experience During a Gastroparesis Flare


Laughter and stories filled the dining room each evening as my family spent quality time together eating dinner with each other. This summer was extra special because we had all four wonderful kids with us so the table was full with their innocent voices and sweet hearts. While everyone was enjoying their meal and talking about their day, on this particular night I sat in my yellow chair in unbearable pain. I was in a daze hoping this wave of intense stomach pain would pass, but it was apparent it was going to be one of those tough nights.

 

As the chatter continued, I silently stood up and removed myself from the table to escape to the kitchen so I could hide from my family so they would not see how much pain I was in. As badly as I wanted to be present with them, my instincts told me I needed to step away… the kids do not need to see me struggling.

Once there, I gripped onto the kitchen counter with my arms straight as a board trying to brace myself from the extreme pain and discomfort from tonight’s plain meal. My stomach was hard as a rock and I was bloated out like I was four months pregnant. My stomach organ felt like it was being tightly twisted and being rung out like an old dish towel. All I could think about was wanting to rip out my stomach and lay in a fetal position there on the cold tile floor.

black and white photo of woman's hands gripping tiled counter

Instead of attacking myself further, I dropped my head between my arms and began to breathe. By changing my focus from the agonizing pain to my breaths, it helped prevent my mind from escalating to all the “what ifs.” I tightly held onto the white tiled counter for five minutes taking deep breaths in and exhaling the pain from my abdomen. Mentally I was trying to tell myself I can and will get through this episode… it always passes. I just needed to stay strong.

Unfortunately, my meditative breaths did not help so my next option was to try to walk it out. My hunched over body went outside and moved at a sloths pace to the end of the street and back to try to help my vascular system pump my blood back to my struggling organ. My walk did me no good and I soon was found dry heaving in the cold shower for 10 minutes. Once the wave of nausea passed, it took with it my last drop of energy. I had nothing left in me and had hit my max limit of exhaustion and fatigue. My body was done. It had used up every ounce of energy to fight this ugly internal battle.

This episode happened because I struggle with a stomach condition called gastroparesis (GP) which affects my body’s ability to digest food normally. The word gastroparesis literally means “paralyzed stomach.” Since I developed this condition as a result of postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS), I have formed a love-hate relationship with food, but mostly hate. Every time I consume something, fear is in my mind that once that item reaches my stomach the extended list of symptoms such as nausea, dry heaving, extreme bloating, gut-wrenching pain and uncomfortableness all could happen. My fingers are constantly crossed hoping that each time I fuel my body, it will accept the food without a fight.

Living with this condition can be very isolating and frustrating, especially when I am around people who do not have food intolerances. I would give anything to have one symptom-free day to indulge in all the unhealthy tasty foods and drinks my old self used to love. Unfortunately, that is not my reality and I have to eat extremely clean, have self-control and stay away from my long list of “no foods” to try to keep my awful symptoms at bay. I am still coming to terms with not being able to live like every other normal human, but I know that too will come with time.

Out of all the medical conditions I struggle with, gastroparesis is the one that scares me the most because it is so unpredictable. It can rear its ugly head at any moment, and it is in charge of how long it will be destructive, which could mean life or death.

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